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Carlos Villanueva hopes young Cubs studying vets after tough loss, sweep

Updated: August 4, 2013 10:37PM

Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva has played for two other major-league teams in seven seasons and has been in his share of team slumps.

But he learned a lesson on how to deal with struggles from one of the game’s best’s closers.

‘‘I remember when I played with Trevor Hoffman a few years ago [with the Milwaukee Brewers], he had a tough year, but even though he wasn’t at the top, he never let down,’’ Villanueva said. ‘‘He worked every day. He battled and was the same guy.

‘‘I learned from that, and hopefully I can help somebody out now.’’

Villanueva had every reason to feel disappointed Sunday after pitching one of his best games against the Los Angeles Dodgers and getting a 1-0 loss to show for it. But he feels keeping up morale, especially on a team with many young players, is part of a veteran’s job.

‘‘It’s very big,’’ he said. ‘‘I think that’s why [team president] Theo [Epstein] and company brought in the veteran guys. We have to be an example and show guys it happens. You still have to come out tomorrow and play. You have to keep your head up. I know it’s easier said than done and it’s a struggle, but nobody is going to feel sorry for you. You have to continue to improve.’’

The latest loss gave the sizzling Dodgers a four-game sweep at Wrigley Field and extended their road winning streak to 14 games.

It also ended a gloomy 1-7 homestand for the Cubs, who were shut out in three of the losses and scored a total 13 runs in the other four.

A day off Monday comes at a good time, manager Dale Sveum said.

‘‘It gives the bullpen a break, but the guys can get a mental break, too, because obviously the last seven games haven’t been good,’’ he said.

The Cubs had seven hits off Dodgers starter Stephen Fife (4-3) in his first game back from the disabled list. But they stranded nine runners in their second consecutive shutout loss.

‘‘Especially coming after a good road trip, we just have to play better, especially at home,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. ‘‘It’s one of those weird things in baseball. It’s pretty annoying, to be honest. You just have to learn and stay together as a team.’’

Villanueva pitched well against baseball’s hottest team — one that has given him trouble throughout his career. He allowed only two hits, all that the Dodgers got. The lone run scored after he walked Hanley Ramirez leading off the second inning. Ramirez scored on A.J. Ellis’ single.

The Dodgers didn’t have rookie star Yasiel Puig in the lineup a day after he hurt his left thumb making a diving catch to rob Starlin Castro. They lost Ramirez in the seventh after the shortstop fell into the seats catching David DeJesus’ popup in foul territory. Ramirez left the field nursing his right shoulder.

The Cubs played without shortstop Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney, who got the day off in a planned rest. Newly recalled Donnie Murphy and rookie Logan Watkins played in their places.

‘‘We have a young team, and even though you never want to go through this, hopefully the struggles we’re having now, especially for our younger players, they’ll learn from it,’’ Villanueva said. ‘‘You want to learn from it by watching other guys go through it. When it happens to you, it’s a little tougher to digest, but obviously we know where we are right now as a team, and we know we’re building for the future.’’

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